In 2013, Kevin, Katelynn, Sara, and I visited the State Fair of Texas again. The weather was much nicer and warmer that day we went a year prior. After we made it through the entrance, the girls got hungry. We all had sandwiches and snacks, which I had in my backpack. The food at the fair can be very expensive. Since we can come in with food and water, we always bring something inside the fair park. When we were done eating, we strolled around the park and started walking toward the Music Hall.
At the main entrance, I photographed the frieze of the 85 feet tall pylon which was added to the blockhouse in 1963. Near the bottom of the pylon is a piece of art that can easily be overlooked by those eager to enter the park. The bas-relief, a series of sculptures attached to the base to create a raised effect, covers all four sides of the monolith to form a horizontal decorative band called a frieze. Showing a scene of a wagon train and buffalo hunt, it was made by James Buchanan Winn, Jr.
Located between the Vietnam memorial and Music Hall, the Sydney Smith Memorial Fountain was originally stationed at the Frank P. Holland Court in 1916. The fountain moved to the front of Music Hall when the building opened, then traveled to its current spot during the 1970s. More commonly known as The Gulf Cloud, the fountain pays tribute to Captain Sydney Smith. Partly funded through marketing special Sydney Smith badges, the fountain was made to honor the captain and his contributions. It stands twelve feet high, weighs five tons, and has a diameter of thirty-five feet. The bronze centerpiece depicts a mother and three daughters, each figure symbolizing a different feature of Texas. The mother represents the plains, the girl on the right stands for the mountains, and the one on the left lying down refers to the Gulf. The winged figure symbolizes the gulf cloud, which will eventually provide rain for the land.
Behind the Sydney Smith Memorial Fountain, Music Hall stands on the previous site of Cycle Park. Charles McAdams built the park in 1896 as a place where people could enjoy the leisure activity of biking. He soon added a steep, wooden racetrack for bicycle races and some bleachers. Calling it the Cycle Park Theater, Charles became the manager. The attraction later became a place to host outdoor festivals, plays, and concerts. A large fire burned it to the ground in 1903 and a new structure was built. Currently capable of seating 3,420 guests, the Music Hall is modeled to reflect the styles of Spanish colonialism with hints of Moorish design. There are six stair towers, each with a dome on top. In addition, there are several porches that have arches positioned over them. The first major change came with the aforementioned addition of air-conditioning in 1951. The building then experienced a large remodeling project in 1972. It increased the size of the backstage area, improved the auditorium acoustics, installed more comfortable seats, expanded the lobby, provided enough space for an indoor box office, and added the Crystal Terrace Restaurant. Music Hall remained the same for twenty-seven years until it underwent some changes in 1999. The job included better acoustics, new carpeting, new paint, and refurbished chairs, along with the addition of a guest relations center and gift shop.
The Old Mill Inn is a restaurant located across the street from Grand Place. However, its original purpose was to serve as the Flour Milling Industry Building for the centennial celebration. Workers made it an exact replica of the Burrus Flour Mill in the town of McKinney, a building that had been around since the early 1800s. The new clone of the building housed exhibits pertaining to the flour mill industry that included three kitchens, a tea room, and an experimental mill. To run the attraction, a group of flour mill companies managed to persuade a national cooking star named Ida Mae Chitwood to take charge. When Ida Chitwood arrived at Fair Park, she taught cooking classes in addition to acting as the building’s supervisor. She also spent her time making fresh biscuits absolutely free to those visiting the attraction. Because of hard times, people would wait more than an hour in line to taste the famous cook’s food. After the exposition, the Old Mill Inn eventually became the home of Borden’s Dairy Exhibit at the fair. Children would get to have the chance to meet the family of the company’s mascot Elsie. Her husband was named Elmer and her daughter was called Beauregard. The two family members were available for petting along with the matriarch. The building currently serves as a restaurant specializing in southern cuisine. Open throughout the year, its interior is decorated with remnants of the past. A stairway leading to a private dining area has autographed photos of famous people who have paid a visit. In addition to the customary meals it provides, the restaurant allows guests to participate in a mystery party every Friday and Saturday through a local company called Keith & Margo’s Ultimate Mystery Dinner Adventure.
… to be continued…